Ariana looked over to Gary, as if trying to measure up if he was really alright but he soon excused himself to a shower and she nodded before draining her tea. His parents would probably be early, which was to be expected and hopefully there would be a small area of peace before her sister appeared and brought a hurricane of added excitement and chatter. The door went just as Ariana was sorting out dishes and drinks. It was too early to offer people beers and such but teas and coffees were laid out and she looked up as Gary came down, looking more awake and freshened up.
Hannah and Graham were a breath of fresh air and Ariana sorted them out some beverages and looked to Hannah at her excitement, smiling at the tiny clothing.
“That’s so sweet, thank you.” She praises and couldn’t hide an amused smile at Graham’s attitude to it. Jenkins men were hard to read, Ariana had learned that over time and she eyed the contents of the bag. Prickles of excitement were easily caught from Hannah and Ariana cast a glance to Gary,
“It is adorable.” She confirmed and knew it wasn’t likely the baby would care what he wore but it didn’t stop the two woman getting excited about it.
“I got some cute stuff with my sister the other day.” She explained to Hannah, she was under no illusion she was a fish out of water because she hadn’t had a chance to be a mother before so any and all advice and help was gratefully received. Ariana dissolved into chit chat, evidently more excited and feeding off of Hannah and her excitement.
“Some stuff has to go into storage, we sorted through it a while ago.” That hadn’t been pleasant, honestly but it was a necessity. Ariana was probably still missing some things that would be essential in time but until the room was set up she wasn’t sure.
A quick kiss to the cheek in passing roused Gary from where he was contemplating the colour of his coffee. He snapped out of the sleep-hazed state and took a big gulp of the piping hot brew. Gary toyed with his phone and checked the time again. He still had a little while to get showered and somewhat presentable. They had everything readied up; paint, brushes, rollers. Before that, they'd have to clear out the room a little though. Gary hadn't been able to carry the boxes that were going into storage himself.
"Morning," Gary said with a yawn. He finished his coffee and looked Ri over. She looked well, for a change. Mornings were always hit and miss for her lately.
"Yeah, I'm okay," he said. A little more tired than he'd hoped to be, but that wasn't much of a surprise, really. He'd been tired more than awake lately. That said, he wouldn't be the one doing most of the work anyway. Gary scrubbed at his eyes and then got his crutches.
"I'll get showered," Gary decided.
"My parents will probably be early," he warned. He'd probably ask his dad to move the boxes first. If there was anyone he'd trust to treat the things delicately, it was his old man. Gary moved up and got out some old clothes, just in case someone decided it'd be funny to paint the cripple a different shade of sea-foam. The shower was a challenge with one leg available, as ever, but Gary had found little ways to make his plight a little easier. He'd learned how to stand, tie off the plastic and lean just so his one leg didn't have to carry the brunt of his weight for the entire duration. As expected, he heard the door-bell ring as he was getting dressed.
"Be down in a sec," Gary called out.
He looked at his reflection and sighed. It'd have to do. He looked a lot better than he had right after the accident. No more bruises, no more cuts. The old head-injury was still ever so slightly visible, in the right light, but it was fading. Gary hadn't expected a scar the way it was shaping up to stay. His steel blue eyes drifted to his cast. He wondered what his leg would look like underneath. Probably all sorry-looking. Gary had heard stories about broken arms and legs looking thin and worn when finally extracted from the cast. He had the fortune it was winter. Less sweaty under the plaster.
Gary shook his head and made his way down.
"Hey," he started. His mother was only just setting some things down on the kitchen table. "Hey honey, I got you two some things for the baby-room. I just couldn't help myself," Hannah excused. Graham snorted, "she was going to buy the whole bloody store."
"Look, isn't it adorable?" she said and pulled out the tiniest little article of clothing. Gary raised an eyebrow and looked at his dad for support. The older man just shrugged.
Where had the day gone? The alarm came all too early and a muffled groan of protest came from the other side of the bed as a stubborn wiggle clued away that actually, time could stop and she would deal with this tomorrow but that wasn’t likely to happen. Coffee, huh? Ariana finally peeked her head out the blankets and watched Gary with lazy eyes.
“I’m getting up.” She said although she really couldn’t muster up enough conviction to actually follow through as she watched Gary get more motivated than her. She wriggled from the blankets and got herself up, she could strap the shower first. She didn’t feel sick, she realised with some relief.
A stretch rescued her tired limbs and grabbed some clothes, hesitating for a moment but eventually found some old cottons, she was pretty sure they were Gary’s at one point but had migrated to her drawers. They were old and a lot more comfortable than the jeans. Hot water woke her up, got her blood pumping as she dried off and tidied herself up. Hair dried and a quick lick of makeup and Ariana made her way downstairs, thick socks on her feet to keep the frostbite off.
A kiss pressed to Gary’s cheek as she passed and she caught up with what was happening today. She figured it would be fine, she’s be alright and they had help. Ariana settled with a hot cup of tea and checked her phone. Her dad has confirmed yesterday he was going to come round for a while and help. Hopefully, he would be alone and her mother would be off at a book club or something.
“Morning.” She finally breathed as she tucked her feet up on the couch and looked to her husband, pondering if he was doing alright.
“You feeling alright?” She asked him over the top of her tea.
Weekend came sooner rather than later. Gary had tried to put some work in the other day, but still felt drained, though his appetite had returned somewhere along the line. Still, that morning came too soon, especially given it was weekend. He cracked a moody eye at the alarm and fumbled around for his phone with the intention of silencing the nefarious device. His parents would be around soon, if Lisa wasn't there before and who knew, Ri's father might show up too. And her mother. That'd be a joy. Gary pushed his hair back and turned sluggishly to face Ariana. Sleep followed him still and Gary had half a mind to just sink back under the blankets and give up on being awake today.
He couldn't though. They were going to redo the baby-room and even though physically he likely couldn't contribute much, he wanted to be there for Ariana. Losing a child was difficult, but Gary imagined it to be even harder on the mother. It'd have to feel like her body betrayed her somehow. He couldn't imagine it any differently.
He stifled a yawn into his pillow and brushed the moisture from the corners of his eyes. Whose idea was this again anyway?
"I need coffee," Gary moaned into his pillow. They hadn't even gone to bed late last night, but he'd stayed up worrying for quite a while, tossing and turning. He stretched and sighed out. After another second, Gary finally peeled himself from the mattress and sat up, taking stock. Actually, with some breakfast, he might just consider himself to feel okay. Not remarkably good or horribly drained, but okay. Okay enough to deal with family-in-law though...
Aspirin would help out there, maybe. Or a beer or two at the end of the day to smooth things over. Gary had a feeling that Mike was going to help them out more than Lisa and his mother combined could anyway. And he rather not Ri do much at all, frankly.
Gary pushed his legs over the edge of the mattress and grabbed his phone close, reading through the messages. Breakfast first, Gary decided. Washing up could wait. He grabbed his crutches and started for the kitchen. Time to get this show on the road.
Gary was right, nothing was one hundred percent set in stone when it came to names. It was no doubt tempting fate anyway as Ariana gave him a reassuring smile. They would no doubt know a name the minute the child was placed in their eager arms.
"You're right." She said to him and looked thoughtful. Her father still hadn't responded but it had only been a couple hours, he was probably busy. Or her mother had found the message and her father had been strung up by his unmentionables. Dinner was starting to smell when Gary spoke up and she got to her feet.
"Sure, that's a good idea. I can get some drinks in, some snacks or pizza or something." She figured she wouldn't get away with not eating with the hoard of people around, her sister would kick her ass to eat and no doubt Hannah as well.
"I can go get some stuff tomorrow, I was going to do some easy work tomorrow morning." She explained as she carefully removed dinner from the oven. She switched the oven off and looked to Gary, lost in a daydream for a split second of wondering what he would be like as a father and how they would cope. She returned to plating up dinner, pouring some juice into some glasses before setting it down on the table.
"I've never had to put up wallpaper in my life, you know." She pointed out, "Let's just hope his room doesn't look like a bomb went off by the end of the weekend." She remarked with a small laugh at the thought before she took a sip of the juice. She hadn't gotten anything sweet, she remembered but whatever craving had bothered her this morning seemed to have wore off. Besides, she was pretty sure there was some chocolate stowed away somewhere if the fancy took her once more. Her appetite was at least back and Ariana made a mental reminder to have some tea because every time her appetite came back like this, it always seemed to bite back the next morning.
Noah? Oh, as a name. Gary finally clued on and ponderously trundled through his memory to find out in what state he'd come up with such a decent name at all and came up blank.
"It's a good name," he concluded after a short thought. Maybe they'd decide differently once they held their baby, but for now it'd be their little secret. Most likely, Ri would want a bunch of second names to fill out their boy's title and Gary smirked at the thought. He lazily texted a colleague back and put the phone face-down on the table once that was done so he could focus on Ariana. Not that his focus was that wonderful to begin with.
"We haven't officially decided yet though, have we?" Gary reasoned. It'd be official on the day he'd register the child as a new-born citizen and until that time he preferred to reserve the right to change his mind. He bet that Lisa, now robbed of colour-choices, would have a thing or two to request when it came to names.
Gary toyed lightly with his borrowed phone. He really ought to just buy a new one and reset the data on this one. He'd lost a lot of good information with that phone which he hoped was stored in the cloud somewhere, waiting to be synced back into a new device.
And his car was still hopelessly parked at the bar too. Gary hoped he'd parked it nice enough to forego any tickets. Honestly, maybe he ought to ask Mike and his dad to help him fetch the poor thing after painting so it could be parked where it belonged again. It'd be nice as a backup car for Ri's too.
"Should we be getting some things for when people come around to paint?" Gary started. He realized they'd be hosting what Ri called 'not-quite-a-party', but probably still warranted beer in some way or at the very least snacks. Frankly, Gary wasn't sure how he was going to get through the day without, especially after everyone was gone. It was in the silence of solitude that he found grief most prominent.
Gary pushed his hair back and sighed. He was dazed in a nasty way, that left his mind racing with his body failing to catch up to any of the things he wanted to do.
A knowing smile was all that betrayed Gary was probably right about Lisa’s disappointment. Her sister was like a hurricane sometimes and most of the time it was enjoyable and nice to be around but other times it was truly exhausting. It had always been that way, Ariana putting it down to the older sibling mentality, Lisa had always shone a little brighter and louder than her quieter sister. It seemed to matter a lot when they were children, Ariana wrestling to get out of her shadow, as adults, it didn’t matter as much. They both had their own lives now so shadows weren’t important.
“I doubt my mother even knows about an invite.” She pointed out, hoping she wouldn’t just arrive unannounced and cause a big commotion on an already difficult day. Then again, if anyone was to put a dampener on things it would be Margaret.
“We’ll see.” She murmured, if her father even bothered to turn up. And what if he did? Ariana could play cosy families for a while, she could manage that for a little while at least if only to save herself the embarrassment of a feud in front of others. Then again, her father might not even turn up and she wasn’t sure which situation was worse.
Gary has the right idea, dinner would take a short time and standing around would cause it to drag. A switch of conversation seemed appropriate, they should be focusing on them and the baby, not her family and their adoration of drama.
“You still like Noah?” She asked him, sitting at the table and watching him thoughtfully. Noah seemed to have stuck well, although she knew any other name would come to them when they held the tiny bundle in their arms. Noah seemed appropriate, it seemed [i right] in a way. She still liked Noah, it was simple and sweet and something they had both agreed on all that time ago.
“Is it bad luck to put his name in the room?”
"Bet Lisa was disappointed to hear that," Gary chuckled about them having already chosen the colours. They'd have so many people over to do the small room that he really wouldn't have had to do anything, even if he was physically fit. Hopefully that meant Ri would be put out of commission by their over-bearing family too. Actually, Gary was going to make sure of it, he decided then and there.
What Ri said next had his eyebrows raise however. Gary looked up from the message he tried texting back and looked at Ri's face, trying to read her emotions.
"Your dad?" Gary thought for a second, listening to Ri's hesitations about her father's participation. He snorted, "Will Margaret even let him? Actually, don't say anything," Gary muttered. With luck they'd find the woman would appear that day too, all gall and denial. He wasn't sure whether he could put up with it then any better as he had a few weeks ago. His patience for Ariana's mother was still watery thin, to be frank and if she couldn't at least act supportive, she wasn't welcome.
Gary resolved to tell her as much, situation be damned, if the older woman did show up.
"Well, we'll see, hmm?" Gary decided. He understood why Ri would want her father there and wouldn't fault her for extending an invitation at the very least.
The aspirin finally started to work, dulling the headache in a weird way. Gary sighed out and grabbed his crutches to move out of the kitchen. Dinner was cooking, so there was nothing to be done, other than wait. Same as the baby. Nothing to be done, other than wait and keep a close eye on the progress both Ri and the baby were making.
Gary wasn't sure on what to do then. He sat down at the kitchen table and toyed with his phone for a while, sending a few texts back and forth between some colleagues and friends, just letting people know he was still alive. It came easier now that he could actually look at the screen without having to squint or foster the mother of all headaches. Not that he felt completely with it. Yesterday had really sapped his energy.
Gary figured he'd get some work in tomorrow morning and then rest up for what was undoubtedly going to be an engaging weekend.
"Can't a girl remind her husband now and then?" Ariana said with a soft laugh, resting her hands on his shoulders. He had made it out, alive. She would still worry, she would always worry for him, even over the smallest things but right then she had to remember he was getting better, he was recovering. It was small steps, but progress none the less. Ariana leaned up into his kiss, relaxing almost instantaneously. Everyone else seemed to do all the worrying for her being pregnant, but she figured a little more worry on her part would sate everyone and prove to rekindle her health. She honestly did love him dearly, and sometimes it was easy to forget.
Ariana watched him with the phone and detached herself with a soft smile playing on her features,
"Lisa and Mike too, although I did tell her that the colours have been picked already." She pointed out. She wasn't sure if that meant they'd be bringing little James, although Lisa had mentioned something about Mike's parents watching him she was sure. Doing the baby room would be difficult enough without a toddler running around. Either way, they would cope.
Hopefully her sister would be in a better mood, at least Ri knew she wouldn't cause any sort of scene at the weekend. Not in front of Gary's parents and Mike. She knew better than that,
"I invited my dad..." She admitted quietly, leaning on the counter, "I'm not sure if he'll come." She added because it wasn't worth getting her hopes up and heavens forbid her mother found out about it. Her father was at least nicer to everyone than her mother so it would hopefully take any drama out of the day. It would be emotional enough without all that going on. This weekend would bring back what was, but also set a good reminder for what was hopefully to come in the next four months or so.
He had made it out. Gary knew that, knew that he was lucky, but at the same time it felt like his head still wasn't done processing what had happened. It didn't help that he hadn't really been able to write much outside of work lately. Writing things down usually helped him order the otherwise chaotic and creative nature of his thoughts. Gary watched as Ri put the cut vegetables and potatoes through the next step of the dish and was surprised when she set out some water and aspirin. Maybe he'd been in denial about the headaches. He really ought to ask after them and what he could do to diminish them; other than 'get more rest'. For now, Gary sighed out and gave in to Ri's caring nature by washing down the pills. They'd been less frequent, the headaches.
He put the glass down and looked up at Ri at her confession.
"Where did that come from, hmm?" he pondered gently and pulled Ariana into an embrace. "You don't have to worry no more, Ri," Gary said softly, hugging Ri. She'd changed into comfortable clothes while he slept and he could feel the growing bump through the thin layers. It was appealing in a way he hadn't felt for Ri in a while. Maybe he was just a bit sensitive right then, but the heat of her body triggered a whole set of other responses his headache tried to put out as it came on. Gary gently kissed Ariana's lips, but didn't take it any further than that.
"Just worry about being pregnant," he said softly. That was all Ri should focus on right now. He'd get through things, one way or another. Gary let his fingers run by her cheek, gently nudging some of her wild locks behind her ear.
A flash on his phone caught his attention and Gary picked it up; his parents.
"They're both coming," Gary mumbled, "my parents." Whether he was ready for it or not, this weekend they'd do up the baby-room and hopefully have a little fun while doing it. Gary felt a bit relieved that they wouldn't be going at it alone. Not that he'd be of much use anyway, but with both of their process so different, they might lose sight of what the other needed right then. Sometimes it was easier to let Lisa or his mother handle Ri's emotions than to try and go at it himself.
Listening to Gary recount the nightmare, which was more like a memory in many ways of the accident was sobering. Each time he spoke of the accident was a fierce reminder he could have died in that cab. She stepped over when he offered up the fragile smile and pressed a kiss to his cheek, hand solid on his shoulder. What would she have done if she had lost him that day? She couldn’t even begin to imagine what it would be like because even though they had been trialled the past year, she hadn’t ever been without Gary.
“It’s alright.” She said quietly to him, “You made it out.” She promised because he wouldn’t be here in their kitchen with her if he hadn’t.
She couldn’t imagine the fear he had gone through, the confusion and everything else that was thrown together. Ariana loved her husband dearly and to think of him as beyond her reach was heavy. Did he know how much she loved her? Likely not because she wouldn’t ever be able to find the words. Ri instead set about adding the potatoes and carrots to the pot, seasoning and brushing them with a little oil so they would cook and finally she put them in the oven. Dinner wouldn’t be quick but she did feel better that it was a joint effort. It would make for a satisfying dinner too, Ariana’s appetite well and truly back.
She washed her hands and looked to Gary, she knew the headache was coming on. After all this time she could see the signs as it approached and she got a glass of water and a couple of aspirin, setting them down for him.
“You know you’re everything to me, right?” She murmured, ignoring the rain battering down outside and the wind had gotten up, as if to add to the miserable weather outside. Every so often, she worried that if the worst had happened in that cab, Gary wouldn’t have known that she didn’t mean the hostile words said in an argument, that instead he was loved and cared for. She didn’t want him to ever forget it.
Carrots and potatoes were shuffled his way and Gary sighed out. The skin between his shoulder-blades was still rippling with the uncanny sensation of fear, but he knew the quickest way around that was to become absorbed by what was right in front of him. Gary clued on to what Ri was preparing and foun a peeling knife to strip both the potatoes and carrots. His fingers knew the way, though he was slower that Ri when it came to these types of things. Ri's undivided attention weighed on him and Gary took in a deep breath. He didn't look up from his work however, just letting out the air in a slow, steady stream.
"It was just a bad dream," Gary surmised. That's all they were, right? Ariana had asked after them before and nothing had changed since. He still couldn't tell what brought on the nightmares or what might make them go away entirely.
"I was just tired," he added, lifting his gaze up to meet Ri's eyes. He had been tired, there was no lie there at least. "I didn't sleep much last night." Gary realized he was evading Ri's actual inquiry and cringed at his replies.
His eyes shifted to the side, looking out the window. He'd let go of the knife, pressing it against the kitchen counter as he leaned his weight against the surface.
A touch on his arm brought him back. Gary looked at the hand and sighed out.
"It's the same nightmare every time. I'm just...sat in the car and I guess...the paramedic first on the scene comes to help. There's blood on my hands, from my face and then something... changes..." Gary winced. "And then there's just pain."
It must've been when they freed his leg from being trapped. Gary closed his eyes. His headache was becoming more fierce as time wore on. More centralized. He tried to relax some of the muscles in his back and neck, trying to shake the feeling of discomfort the nightmare left lingering in his body.
Ri had her own set of worries and she really didn't need his to be added into the mix. Gary gave Ri a fragile smile.
There was little they could do to stop a nightmare from happening and honestly, Gary didn't think they were bad enough to seek out help. He didn't have them every single night, just occasionally. They were becoming more detailed at that. Part of him was curious to these forgotten memories, in a way. Even if they were unpleasant, it was good to know what had happened to him. Gary picked the knife back up, as if he'd just found it and continued his chore.
Ariana glanced over at Gary's violent and abrupt awakening. The nightmares didn't seem to heal, she noted as she set the knife down and watched him make his way over. He looked shaken up and she took in his image for a moment, he didn't look in pain, just uncomfortable and a little anxious.
"Preparing dinner." She said to him, quietly. She figured nightmares about such a traumatic event wouldn't fade like the concussion or heal like the leg, some small part of her was glad she hadn't seen the accident because the aftermath had been horrific enough. The chicken was in the oven already, slowly cooking away in some seasoning.
Ariana didn't push the subject of his rather rude awakening into the conscious world. If he wasn't alright, he would tell her, right? And she couldn't cure nightmares, just hope that they slowly dissipated to a faint memory.
"Do you want to help?" She asked him, it had been a while since they had cooked together and there was nothing wrong with his arms, after all. She shuffled some carrots and potatoes over to him as she carried on with the peppers, thinking to herself for a while with the soft hum of the music in the background, it was more settling than having the television with its cutting images.
"Are you alright?" She finally asked, looking up from cutting the red peppers, she knew how to cook well enough so she could split attention, moving the cut veg into a tray and adding some seasoning. She set the knife down and focused her full attention on her husband. If he didn't want to talk, she would accept it, it was his choice. Ariana reached out and touched his arm, a small gesture to ground him to the here and now, whatever had happened in the dream was over with.
Ticking echoed in the metallic confines. A deep groan of bent metal setting in a new position and the ticking of an engine that was only just cut off in the cold. Sirens in the distance, dark blotches in front of him. Something warm dripped from his chin onto his hand, a liquid. Gary let his gaze focus in on his hand and it was crimson in colour. So dark, almost like oil, slick enough to carve out lanes across the back of his hand. It reeked of oil, thick and heavy, no, gasoline, it was gasoline. Lights danced across his peripheral sight.
Glass scattered down onto the road, a hand reached out to his neck. Gentle. So gentle. He couldn't make out the buzzing noise however. Fingers felt down his neck, into his coat, down to his spine. A blinding light blotted out what he could see and then the tranquil world was shattered. Where time seemed to have come to a stop, everything suddenly sped up; pain. Gary recalled that pain and then there were questions, noises, sounds, voices, hands, sensations and nothing made any sense.
He shot awake, violently enough to almost tumble from the couch again, hands constricted in the blanket. Gary fought to get out, realized the futility of his fight and slumped back into the couch pillows. His breathing came in fast, brief gasps and Gary's eyes searched the living for what had seemed a dream, but hadn't felt like one. It'd felt real. Like a memory. Music drifted in then, the comforting sounds of Ri working in the kitchen. He could smell dinner cooking.
Gary took a deep breath to steel himself and pushed free from the blanket to sit up properly. His leg protested a little, but Gary knew it didn't actually hurt. They were simply remnants of that blasted nightmare. He had a headache to show for it though and unlike his leg's phantom pain, it was pretty real. Gary massaged his temples and then looked around for his crutches. Should've eaten lunch or whatever.
He got up and found his way into the kitchen in search of something to drink.
"What're you making?" Gary asked as he got out a glass. Curiosity won out over his unsettled mood. He sipped on some juice, rummaging around for his phone. If he was going to ask his father's help, he better give his parents a call. Actually, his mother might come too, just to see how they were and most likely to mediate. He sent the text and put his phone down again, taking in Ri, seeking a distraction from the nightmare's haunting images.
Ariana set the bags neatly, at least so no one would trip on them. She wasn't going to try anything right then, not by herself and she figured she should get a text sent round for the weekend, nothing too big or exciting. She didn't want a party, just some friendly faces willing to lend a hand to paint and decorate. Ariana made her way to their room, changing into something more comfortable than the ever tightening jeans that were never going to get looser. Sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, it wasn't exactly attractive but it was warm and comfortable. More comfortable than the jeans at least, although Ariana wasn't used to wearing things like these normally.
She stepped downstairs to see Gary cuddled up under a blanket, evidently succumbed to sleep. She gave a small smile and adjusted the blanket to keep the chill out for now. Ariana searched through the fridge, it was a touch early for dinner but she was hungry, rifling out some bits to make a sandwich with as she sat at the table and clicked through her phone to send a message to Lisa and Mike, asking for them to come help with the baby room and making an extra note that she had already picked out colours with Gary, just in case Lisa got any funny ideas. She paused for a moment, thinking on inviting her father and pondering the implications. Finally, she decided to just invite him, and only him.
Ariana had polished off the sandwich in no time, half distracted before she cleaned her plate off in the sink and starting on dinner preparation. Ariana checked her phone as she saw a reply from Lisa, who was of course excited and 'more than happy' to come and lend a hand, and Mike of course. Ariana set about chopping some vegetables up, setting the radio on for a soft background noise. It had been a while since she had cooked a proper meal like this, that she could take her time with.
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